The prices for chicken and eggs in South Africa are likely to remain high and will likely spike significantly before the end of the year.
This comes as the local poultry industry has been ravaged by an avian influenza (bird flu) outbreak that has led to the culling of between 7.5 million and 8 million chickens.
Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMBEJD) programme coordinator Mervyn Abrahams told eNCA that, prior to this outbreak, there was actually a decline in the price of chicken.
Between July and August, the price of 10 kg of frozen chicken declined by around 1%. “The price of chicken was going in the right direction, and then we were hit by avian flu,” he said.
Between September and October, Abrahams said the PMBEJD expects a spike of between 4% and 6% in the price of chicken.
The group also believes the price could increase even further over the next 17 months as the local poultry industry will need time to recoup and restock the number of chickens that have been culled.
Professor Robert Bragg from the Univerisity of the Free State Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry echoed this view.
Bragg told Newzroom Afrika that the effect of the bird flu outbreak on South Africa’s poultry industry will be a long-term problem.
He said it will likely take between 18 and 25 weeks for the industry to replace the breeder birds that were culled due to the outbreak.
After the breeder birds have been replaced, they need to start laying eggs, which usually takes around 23 weeks. The birds will go into peak production at 35 weeks.
Following this, the eggs need to hatch, which takes around 21 days. The hatchlings will be put into poultry houses, and on average, the broiler birds must stay there for about 35 days.
“So if you add all of that up, it’s going to be a substantial lag before we’ve caught up,” he said.
“What’s worrying is the impact this is having on the small to medium-sized poultry farmers because they’re 100% reliant on getting birds from the breeders.”
“And if the birds are being culled, they’re not getting replacement birds for their egg production or for their broilers. So it’s going to be a long-term problem.”